Thyagaraja Aradhana Souvenir
March 13, 2021
Bhairavi Karthick is a 11 year old 4th grader studying in P S Senior Secondary School in Chennai,India. Bhairavi loves to draw and in undergoing training in Shrishti School of Culinary Arts and Crafts in Mylapore. She also learns Bharathanatyam. Her hobbies include clay modelling, pencil sketching to name a few.
Thyagaraja Aradhana Souvenir
The content in this magazine is published with a spirit of openness of communication and freedom of expression. The opinions contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views of SRUTI, its board or its members. The articles have been published as is with some minimal corrections for clarity.
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Mr. Sundar Arunapuram
Ms. Revathi Subramony
Mr. Venkat Kilambi
Ms. Raji Venkatesan
Resources and Development
Mr. P. Sivakumar (Director)
Ms. Raji Venkatesan
Ms. Rajee Padmanabhan
Ms. Renuka Adiraju
Publications and Outreach
Ms. Lata Suresh (Director)
Mr. Raman Visweswaran
Ms. Ramya Ravi
Marketing and Publicity
Mr. Nari Narayanan (Director)
Mr. Kannan Narasimhan
Mr. Harish Bevinahally
Ms. Uma Sivakumar
Ms. Chitra Kannan
Ms. Rajee Padmanabhan
Mr. Venkat Kilambi (Chair)
Mr. Nari Narayanan
Mr. Bala Balasubramanian
Mr. Ranga Narayanan
Mr. Sundar Arunapuram
Mr. Dinakar Subramanian (Chair)
Ms. Uma Prabhakar
Ms. Priyanka Dinakar
Ms. Rajee Padmanabhan
Mr. Sundar Arunapuram
Dear Sruti Family,
Namaskarams and Greetings to all. I hope you and your loved ones are well and staying safe during these difficult times. I like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and my fellow members of the Sruti board, who I am privileged to work with this year.
President - Sundar Arunapuram
It is my pleasure to serve as the President of Sruti this year. Since moving to Philadelphia in 1992, my wife, Chitra, my parents, my two children and I have been closely associated with Sruti. I have also served on Sruti board for five years and served on many committees. I have an undergraduate degree from IIT Kharagpur and hold a Ph.D. in Operations Research. I am currently employed as a Senior Director of Product Development at Oracle.
President Elect - Revathi Subramony
Revathi Subramony has
served on the board for over two years prior to accepting the role as the
president-elect. Revathi has been associated with Sruti since she moved to
Pennsylvania in 2004. She has a strong interest in Carnatic music and has
trained for many years under Neela Ramgopal, a nationally recognized Carnatic
vocalist from Bangalore, India. Revathi is a performing vocalist and teacher
and is actively involved with promoting classical arts in the region.
Secretary – Raji Venkatesan
Raji has been associated with Sruti for the last 30 years since moving to the Philadelphia area. She is a past President of Sruti and has served the board and committees in various capacities including successful grantsmanship and capacity building with other arts organizations. Raji currently serves as Secretary of Sruti. Raji is a software development professional and in a senior management role at a technology company.
Treasurer – Venkat Kilambi
Venkat joined the Sruti Board of Directors in 2006 as Treasurer. He served as Treasurer for several years and was President elect and President for two more years. He worked on the Board of Greater Delaware Valley Telugu Association for over five years and was also the stage manager for the Telugu association national cultural convention in 2001 which was attended by over 10,000 people in a span of three days and graced by many dignitaries and artists from the US and India. He was the President of the Toronto Telugu Association and a similar national convention was conducted in Toronto in 1990. While not serving on the Boards of the organizations mentioned, Venkat worked as a volunteer for many years managing cultural events in Philadelphia and Toronto.
Director of Resources – P. Sivakumar
Dr. Sivakumar has been associated with Sruti for the past 15 years and has helped in the organizational growth through procurement of grants from federal, state and other sources. He has also helped organize several music concerts in the area and has contributed articles to Sruti publications initiative. He is a professional percussionist and plays the Mridangam, the South Indian Classical drum. An accomplished scientist, he holds a PhD degree in Biotechnology and leads clinical biomarker programs in the pharmaceutical industry.
Director of Publications – Lata Suresh
Aspiring to spread the Carnatic Music art form in its purity, Mrs. Lata Suresh has been running her vocal music school in the Greater Philadelphia area for over 20 years. Her students have won many awards and recognition in The Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana and other music competitions. Lata’s dedication to excellence and her students’ zeal inspire her to elevate and share her craft with the society at large. Serving in the Sruti board has been a great impetus for her to socialize the unique art-form.
Director of Marketing – Nari Narayanan
Nari has served on the Sruti board for over 9 years, mostly as a Marketing director. He was the Sruti president in 2017. Nari and his family members have been Indian Classical Music and Bharatanatyam dance enthusiasts and practitioners for a long time. Nari has also been active in other Indian organizations in Sydney and Philadelphia. Nari and his wife Subha have been living in Villanova, PA for more than 21 years. He holds a Master's degree in Computer Science from IIT – Madras and MBA from Australia. Nari is a Senior Director of Cybersecurity at Incyte Corp.
Director 1 – Chitra Kannan
Hailing from a music and dance lovers’ family, Chitra joined the SRUTI Board of Directors in 2019. A graduate in Business administration and Project Manager by profession, she spends her time volunteering for social causes and women upliftment.
Director 2 – Rajee Padmanabhan
Rajee Padmanabhan is an ardent admirer and student of Carnatic Music who has been a member of Sruti for over two decades. Rajee has served in various sub-committees of Sruti over the years and finds a true sense of community within the Sruti family. When music is not taking her mind space, Rajee makes a living as a technology manager while indulging in her passion for reading and traveling with her family.
The pandemic has thrown a unique challenge for the organization and we have responded to creatively curate interesting programs through both collaborations and direct Sruti presentations. We hope that you, our sponsors and members have already seen glimpses of this and are enjoying the offering.
As a first order of business, the Board decided to recognize the continued support by our patrons and sponsors by treating you over the Holiday break to Ranjani & Gayatri’s virtual concert presented by the Chennai Music Academy.
With the pandemic situation continuing into 2021, we decided to keep the Sruti traditions afloat and pack the first half of the year with virtual concerts. We partnered with ARTery in Chennai for recording the concerts, selected OneStream and Zoom to stream the concerts on YouTube and FaceBook. By using a digital platform to present the concerts, we saw an opportunity to begin our programming early, and started the year with the first part of Thyagaraja Aradhana on the 30th of January, which coincided with the Bahula Panchami week. This event featured a melodious Nadhaswaram concert by Mailai Karthikeyan followed by a rendition and explanation of Pancharatna Kritis by the Malladi Brothers and their entire family. This was followed by individual signing of Thyagaraja Kritis by adults and children of our community, in the afternoon.
The second part of the Thyagaraja Aradhana event, scheduled on March 13th featured a vocal virtual concert by K. Gayatri followed by individual participations in the afternoon. In between the two Thyagaraja events, we also presented a virtual Flute concert by Sruthi Sagar in February.
We plan to continue having virtual concerts for the rest of the year until the pandemic situation eases. We have an exciting line up of virtual events lined up for the next few months. First among those is a talk on April 10th by a well known historian, V. Sriram on “The Life and Times of Gopalakrishna Bharati” with musical excerpts by Bharat Sundar. We are also happy to present the Trinity play in April virtually that we originally scheduled as a live event one year ago, but was canceled due to the pandemic.
As a special treat for all the mothers on Mother’s day, we plan to have an all women’s concert featuring Sangeetha Kala Acharya Vidushi Neela Ramgopal. We also partnered with Sree Ramaseva Mandali in Bangalore to present five programs spread over the months of April, May and June - vocal concert by Abhishek Raghuram, vocal concert by S. Saketharaman, violin duo by Mysore Nagaraj and Mysore Manjunath, Kathak performance by Nirupama Rajendra & Abhinava Dance Company and vocal concert by Sandeep Narayan. These five programs are available only for our patrons and sponsors. We also have a Bharatanatyam dance performance in June by Sophia Salingaros, a young dancer of Greek descent who followed her passion for Indian dance.
There are several other exciting programs that are in the works for the second half of the year. We are also hoping that the pandemic will end and that we will be able to see you all at a live auditorium concert by the end of this year.
While these digital concerts replace the in-auditorium concerts during these unprecedented times, we feel that these virtual events are here to stay and will supplement the traditional concerts even during normal years. It is an opportunity to bring programs that are difficult to organize and present live, and our experience with presenting digital events opens a new avenue. We are exploring more presentations in the Fall season that are not as easy to put together for live presentations as they depend on logistics such as international travel by all involved. Please stay tuned as we unravel the rest of the year!
In closing, I wish you all the safest season and thank you for your support through the upcoming year.
"…ghana daridruniki paikamu vale, kanula paNDuvugA…(vanaja nayana)
eNDu pairulaku jalamu vale …(Subha dAyaki)"
These are lines from the famous tyAgarAja kriti "sundari nii divya rUpamu" in rAga kaLyANi. They mean "Like wealth for a down-right pauper and like rain for the wilting crops"….
That was how it felt when listening to the tyAgarAja ArAdhana, after a musical drought that lasted almost an entire year due to COVID-19. Sruti brought out successfully a virtual tyAgarAja ArAdhana event on Saturday 30 Jan 2021, which could be viewed by patrons all over the world via the Internet. Even though the event was virtual, the organizers did such a good job of putting together that it reproduced the feelings the festive community event that tyAgarAja ArAdhana always is.
The event was organized very professionally, for which the Sruti Board deserves compliments. It started exactly on time and the videography was excellent. Considering that such an event required coordination across multiple locations, the challenges are great, but everything was organized with great care and precision.
It felt auspicious to start with a brief pUja to gaNESa, the Hindu God who is believed to remove all obstacles, ensuring a successful and uninterrupted event. It seemed appropriate that this was followed by another short pUja to Sri rAma, the ishTa-daivam (chosen deity) of tyAgarAja. Next, the introductory remarks by the President and the President-Elect were crisp and short, leading quickly to the musical program.
The musical program began with a nAdasvaram performance by Mylai Karthikeyan. Again, the stage was reminiscent of a professional auditorium and the audio/video settings were perfectly set, which made the listening experience a real concert stage like. Karthikeyan and party started with a mallari in gambhira-nATa rAga, followed by the traditional rendition of cEtulAra kriti in bhairavi rAga. The performance concluded with four utsava sampradAya kiirtana-s, namely heccarika in yaduluka kAmbhOji rAga, patiki hAratiirE in suruTi rAga, siitA kaLYANa vaibhOgamE in navrOj rAga and jaya mangaLam in mOhana rAga.
I am sure many will agree with me that listening to tyAgarAja's music always feels pristine and divine, a soul purifying experience, making one teary eyed. The emotions were especially enhanced due to musical relief brought about after the long social confinement, suddenly and harshly imposed on us by the COVID-19 virus. Reflecting as I often do, I feel ever so grateful to the long chain of people involved in bringing such experiences alive, starting from the music and personality of tyAgarAja, through generations of his dedicated students and the organizers who make the music alive again.
This was followed by Sruti's Sivakumar introducing the family of Malladi Brothers, which had been specially invited to perform tyAgajAra's panca-ratna-kriti-s, along with explanations & commentaries. The team consisted of the father Malladi Suri Babu garu, Malladi Brothers (Sriramakumar and Ravikumar), and the next generation of budding musicians - Malladi Sindhu Rageswari (daughter of Malladi Ravikumar) on Violin, Malladi Sri Aravind Karthik (son of Malladi Sriramkumar) and Malladi Sivanand Yasasvi (son of Malladi Ravikumar), representing a continuity of 3 generations of Carnatic musical heritage. Here too, the stage was set up beautifully and professionally, with a figurine of tyAgarAja and a Sruti banner in the background.
As per tradition, the pancaratna-kriti rendition began with the invocatory kriti "Sri ganapatini sEvimpa rArE" in sourAshTra rAga, preceded by a brief AlApana by Suri Babu garu. The pacaratna kriti-s were rendered, first by giving the listeners a line by line meaning of the lyrics, with one of the Brothers reading out the sAhityam and the other its meaning in English.
The first of the pancaratna-s is "jagadAnanda kAraka" in nATa rAga. Here tyAgarAja addresses rAma as the one who is the cause of happiness in this world, an uncommon expression in all of the Carnatic sAhitya (as far as I know!). As is well known, it has a pallavi, an anupallavi and an expansive 10 caraNam-s (a characteristic of all the five pancaratna-s). All these 12 sAhitya passages praise the splendor and glory of Sri rAma in the majestic sounds of the Sanskrit language and uplifting melody of the nATa rAga. It is also interesting to note that tyAgarAja uses his mudra in the last 3 caraNam-s (tyAgarAja nuta, tyAgarAja sannuta & tyAgarAjAdi nuta). Is it because he composed the last two caraNams at a later time and felt compelled to add his mudra, so that people would not suspect that they were spurious passages added by other unscrupulous composers?
The second of the pancaratna-s is duDukUgala in gouLa rAga. Malladi brothers rendered this kriti in a leisurely pace, with perfectly blended voices. It was also nice to notice that the Brothers paid particular attention to the way words are split when singing this kriti. For example, they sang the pallavi keeping the word "dorakoDuku" together, whereas it is not uncommon to see musicians split it into two parts, dora & koDuku, since they appear in the two different lines of the pallavi: Line-1 (Avartanam-1): duDuku gala, nannE dora; Line-2 (or Avartanam-2): koDuku brOcurA, entO". This kriti also has a total of 10 caraNam-s, along with a pallavi and anupallavi. The caraNam-s are replete with self-deprecating declarations of a wasteful life led and are full of repentance. What could have been the context when tyAgarAja wrote this song? One cannot imagine that these narrations are truly a self-reflection, rather reflections of faltering humanity in general.
The third pancaratna kriti "sAdhincenE" is in strong contrast to the melody and meaning of the previous one. The melody is in Arabhi rAga, a cheerful and energizing musical structure, compared to the melancholy, heavy melody of the gauLa rAga, as projected in the second kriti. The meaning also exhibits a strong contrast, as the meaning of the sAdhincenE kriti is playful and sprightly. Malladi brothers rendered this kriti in a unique way that is different from several other popular renditions. It has to do with the caraNam "samayAniki tagu mATalADenE". Usually this is sung as the first caraNam after the anupallavi and is used as a refrain to which the singer comes back to after each of the 7 caraNam-s that follow. However, Malladi brothers skipped this caraNam after the anupallavi and sang it as the first line of the very last caraNam. Here are the two structures:
Traditional Organization of the caraNam-s:
(A): bOdhincina …
(C2): dEvakii vasudEvula…
(C9): sadbhaktula naData…
Malladi Brothers' Organization of the caraNam-s:
(A): bOdhincina …
(C1): dEvakii vasudEvula…
(C8): samayAniki…sadbhaktula naData…
The debate as to which of these is the “correct” one has been a subject of un-converging discussions for several decades. The reasons suggested by Malladi Brothers for their preference are: sAhityam (fits better), sangItam (ex. refrain coming back to the pallavi as opposed to another caraNam) and flow of meaning.
In any case, in this kriti, tyAgarAja refers alternately to Sri rAma and Sri krishNa. Counting the caraNam-s as per Malladi Brothers rendition, caraNam-s 1, 3,4 refer to Sri krishNa whereas caraNam-s 6, 7 refer to Sri rAma. caraNam-2 is about vishNu and caraNam-5 is about a generic benevolent God, both of which can be attributed to either krishNa or rAma. Unsurprisngly, the caraNam-s about krishNa are playful, whereas those about rAma are more somber and majestic. The last caraNam-8 is of a completely different meaning, wherein tyAgarAja is talking about the advice given to him (or human beings in general). Finally, it is interesting to note that there are 2 mudra caraNam-s in this kriti as well: caraNam-7 & 8.
The fourth pancaratna kriti is kana kana rucirA in varALi rAga. Although (at least to me), varALi rAga, in general as well as projected in this kriti, sounds melancholic and self-reflective, the sAhityam here actually is a genteel and affectionate praise of rAma and sIta. Like the previous kriti, this one also has 8 caraNam-s, alongwith a pallavi & anupallavi. It is remarked that tyAgarAja used the gadya sAhityam style in his compositions, compared to simple repetitive structure of poems. I believe that this style makes it hard to alter the music, unlike for simple poetic works (such as annamAcArya or purandara dAsa kirtana-s). The sAhityam of this varALi kriti offers excellent examples (IMO). For example, tyAgarAja uses grammatical words such as mariyu (meaning 'and'), and conversational words such as ceppalEdA (did I not say it?), curukkana (meaning 'stinging') etc. Even entire caraNam-s seem like colloquial prose sentences. For example, "…karNa SUlamaina mATa vInula curukkana tALaka, SrI harini dhyAninci sukhimpaga lEdA?..." (…when the spear-like sharp words stung the ears, did he (prahlAda) not meditate on you & feel comforted?..).
The last and final pancaratna kriti is arguably (or not) the crown jewel of all of Carnatic music: endarO mahAnubhAvulu in Srii rAga. Its appeal is so vast and so deep that it touches the hearts of people every single time it is heard. Even the phrase "endarO mahAnubhavulu" ("so many great people") has become common parlance and been used in so many contexts that the sAhityam and sangiitam are par excellence in this kriti. This kriti has 10 caraNam-s plus the pallavi and anupallavi. It also has two mudra caraNam-s, with the last caraNam being quite different in the musical style from all preceding ones.
One of the unique features of this set of 5 pancaratna-s is their sangiita-sAhitya style, generally considered to be of a tAna-varNam structure (due to the brisk pace and the rendition of svara-s followed by sAhityam). As far as we know, these are the only works of tyAgarAja with this structure. In fact, it is believed that he did not compose any varNam-s at all (unlike his contemporaries SyAma SAstri and diikshitAr). Another intriguing question around these pancaratna-s is whether they were composed by tyAgarAja himself as a set or whether they were put together by the original organizers of the ArAdhana celebrations.
While many views seem to attribute to the latter, I wonder whether a case cannot be made to suggest that they were indeed composed as a set by tyAgarAja himself. For, the concept of these 5 rAgA-s being considered as ghana-rAgA-s is apparently well documented in ancient Carnatic musical treatises. If that were so, and if tyAgarAja did not compose them as a set himself, what are the chances that he composed just 5 of these works and their rAgA-s miraculously matched the ghana-rAgA-s? To me it seems that these chances are low, leading me to suggest that they were probably composed together as a set. It is entirely possible that he did not compose them all at once (or during a short period of time), as the kshEtra-pancaratna-s (such as Srii rangam, kOvUr, tiruvottiyUr & lAlguDi pancaratna-s) were, but rather spread out in time.
There is another interesting observation that I would like share regarding the pancaratna-s. tyAgarAja is celebrated as "sangiita-brahma", who resurrected many old rAgA-s nearing extinction, stretched the boundaries of the science & art of Carnatic music by creating several new rAgA-s and decorated Carnatic music with his famed innovation of sangati-s. However, the star jewels in tyAgarAja ArAdhana are the pancaratna-s, which are in well-established rAgA-s, in the varNam-style that he did not seem to embrace to any extent beyond these 5 works and musical works completely devoid of his famous invention, the sangati-s! Perhaps, we should look at these as a magnificent gateway to the colossal palace of his innumerable and inimitable and timeless works of Carnatic music.
Following these, Malladi Brothers concluded this part of the tyAgarAja ArAdhana with a mangaLam by the famous direct disciple of tyAgarAja, namely vAlAjapETa venkaTa ramaNa bhAgavatAr.
When the event ended, we were left with a satiated feeling of musical delicacies and carried with us lingering melodies that stayed with us for days to come. Once again, our sincere thanks to Sruti organizing committee, which did an amazing job of putting together this virtual ArAdhana. In conducting such a complex event such as this one, they have set an example for virtual concert organization that will serve as a model for all the upcoming events during the COVID-times and even beyond, when I can imagine these virtual performances being an adjunct to physical events. It will no doubt reach many more audiences, who may be unable to travel to the event venues. We do sincerely hope Sruti Board will consider this desire.
Prabhakar Chitrapu is a lover of music, language and philosophy. He often contributes to Sruti publications and has served the organization in various capacities. He maintains a website www.Thyagaraja.org
Vocal Concert by K.Gayatri
Saint Tyagaraja is one of the most renowned composers in Carnatic Music. He has introduced several ragas and composed thousands of kritis, most of which are in praise of Lord Rama and written in Telugu and Sanskrit. One of Saint Tyagaraja’s most outstanding contributions are the Pancharatna krithis - 5 krithis about Lord Rama set to Adi Talam. In honor of his work, an annual Tyagaraja Aradhana occurs around the world from Thiruvaiyaru, Tamilnadu (where Saint Tyagaraja lived most of his life) to Cleveland Ohio where several accomplished carnatic musicians gather to perform a musical tribute and celebrate his works.
One of his popular works is the utsava sampradaya krithis. These are made up of short yet rich melodies and literary meanings. The krithis detail activities and celebrations running from the evening to the morning on a festive day in Rama’s life. Saint Tyagaraja sees himself observing these events in Rama’s court, addresses Rama, and vividly describes all events in the krithis.
These songs depict various scenes such as leading Lord Rama to the mandapam (Heccarikagā Rārā), Rama and Sita’s marriage (Sītā Kalyāna Vaibhogame), offering food and aarati (Patiki Hārati Re), and putting the God to sleep (Jo Rama). The next morning, Rama is woken up (Meluko Dayanidhi) and a mangalam (Jaya Mangalam) is sung to conclude the rituals. Each krithi consists of three or more charanams and is ideal for devotional chorus singing.
Some of his popular krithis include the following:
1. Heccarikagā Rārā: Yadukula Kāmbhoji, Jhampa Tālam
heccarikagā rārā he rāmacandra
heccarikagā rārā he suguṇa sāndra
pacca viltuni kanna pālita surendra
ninu jūḍa vaccu bhagini karambu ciluka
manasu rañjilla nī mahimalanu paluka
minu vāsulella virulanu cāla jiluka
ghana tyāgarāju kanugona muddu guluka
This composition begins with “heccarikagā rārā he rāmacandra heccarikagā rārā he suguṇa sāndra”, inviting Rama, “Gingerly, gingerly advance O Rama” The anupallavi identifies Lord Rama as the “Sire of the god of love. He hath the green bow; Lord of the Gods from overpowering odds” The following lines form the third charanam and continue to call out to him, “Come with the singing of the parrot on your sister's (Parvati) hand who has come to see you and the celestials rain flowers in plenty so this blessed Tyāgarāja can enjoy the beautiful scene!” The raga Yadukula Kambhoji beautifully captures this soft and tender scene.
2. Sītā Kalyāna Vaibhogame: Śaṅkarābharaṇaṁ, Jhampa Tālam
sītā kalyāna vaibhogame
rāmā kalyāna vaibhogame
pavanaja stuti pātra pāvana carītra
ravi soma vara netra ramanīya gātra
nigamāgama vihāra nirupama śarīra
nagadharāgha vidāra natalokādhāra
parameśa nuta gīta bhava jaladhi pota
taraṇi kula sañjāta tyāgarāja nuta
One of Saint Tyagaraja’s most well-known utsava sampradāya kṛtis is ‘sītā kalyāna vaibhogame.’ This piece is introduced by praising the wedding ceremony (kalyāna) between Sita and Rama. The first charaṇam praises Rama himself, with such compliments as the object of Hanuman’s worship, the son of Vayu, and whose eyes are of the sun and moon (ravi soma vara netra). The second and third charaṇam commend Rama by stating he is a destroyer of evil (agha vidāra), whom Lord Śivā sings praise towards, etc. The last phrase, ‘tyāgarāja nuta’ is marked as Saint Tyāgarāja’s signature, while simultaneously stating that He is praised by Saint Tyāgarāja.
3. Patiki Hārati Re: Suruṭṭi, Ādi Tālam
patiki hārati re sītā
ati mṛdutara satvabhāṣa nunikī
akilāṇḍa nāthunīki sītā
rāja vibhākara rāja dharāmara
rāja sukhājavi rājulu jūḍaga
rāja mānamagu gājulu ghallana
rājita tyāgarāja nutūniki śrī
The pallavi begins the composition with the phrase, patiki hārati re sītā, meaning ‘let us perform offering to the consort of Sita.’ In the anupallavi, Saint Tyāgarāja praises his speech as being pure (mṛdutara) and truthful and pure (satvabhāṣa), as well as describing Rama as the Lord of the universe (akilāṇḍanayaka). In the charaṇam, Saint Tyāgarāja writes that as the sun, moon, Lord Śiva, Lord Indra, Lord Brahma, Garuḍa, and Suka watch the brilliant bangles, (rāja mānamagu gājulu ghallana) let us perform aarti to Lord Viṣṇu and Sita, to the Lord praised by Saint Tyāgarāja (tyāgarāja nutūniki). Saint Tyagaraja showcases his poetic skills by starting each phrase in the charanam with the syllable “Ra” in tribute to Raja vibhakara.
Complete list of Utsava Sampradaya Krithis:
Shobane: Pantuvarali, Roopakam
Nagumomu Galavani: Madhyamavathi, Adi
Melukovayya: Bauli, Jhampa
Uyyala loogavayya: Neelambari, Jhampa
Napali Srirama: Sankarabharanam, Adi
Naya Mangalam: Nada - Nama - Kriya Adi
Meluko Dayanidhi - Saurashtram - Rupakam
Lali Yugave - Neelambari - Roopakam
Lali Lalayya Lali - Kedara Gowla - Jhampe
Pathi Ki Mangala Aarathy - Aarabhi - Adi
Badalika Dheera - Reeti Gowla - Adi
Pooola Panpu Meeda - Aahiri - Trisram
Sri Rama - Neelambari - Jhampa
Janaki Nayaka - Dhanyasi - Adi
Koluvai Unnade - Devagandhari - Adi
Jo Rama - Reeti Gowla - Adi
Lali Yani - Hari Kamboji - Adi
Ksheera Sagara Vihara: Anandabhairavi, Jhampa
Jaya Mangalam: Mohanam, Rupakam
Ma Ramachandruniki - Kedara Gowla - Adi
Rama Lali - Sahana - Mishra Chapu
Rama Sri Rama - Sankarabharanam - Adi
Karunarasakshava - Ghanta - Adi
Sri Rama Dasa - Dhanyasi - Mishra Chapu
Ramuni Maravakave - Kedara Gowla - Adi
Sri Rama - Saveri - Adi
Aragimpave - Thodi - Roopakam
Rama - Mohanam - Mishra Chapu
Endu Bayaradayya - Dhanyasi - Roopaka
Sundara Dasarathja Nandana - Kapi - Adi
Rama Ramana Rara - Shankarabharanam - Adi
Hariyanu Vaari - Todi - Adi
Palaya Raghu Rama - Devagandhari - Adi
Rama Sita Rama - Balahamsa - Adi
Haridasulu Vedale - Yamuna Kalyani - Adi
Though these songs' intended purpose was to convey Tyagaraja’s devotion to Rama and his desire to always be in the presence of Rama, we believe Utsava Sampradaya krithis have also united Rama devotees. The simplicity and popularity of these krithis allow for group singing and encourage more devotees to sing and express their devotion to Rama since the krithis do not require much musical training. Many devotees of Tyagaraja were not only drawn to his divine musical talent but also his bhakti and quality of devotion. These krithis allow these devotees who may not be musically trained but still want to sing about Rama to learn and perform these songs. Performing these krithis during the annual Tyagaraja Aradhana and religious gatherings plays an important role in continuing Tyagaraja’s legacy and motivating young musicians to learn about one of the most influential musicians in Carnatic music.
We have been fortunate enough to sing the Utsava sampradaya krithis as part of Sruti’s Tyagaraja’s Aradhana for the past few years. The group performance has always been a delightful way to commence the day’s program and unites both teachers and students to sing on this auspicious day. One of our favorite songs has always been Hecharikaga Rara. It kicks off the performance with an energetic start that never diminishes throughout the singing. It is evident that the contagious energy and the bhāvam that surrounds the performers excites the audience to rejoice and celebrate Saint Tyagaraja’s renowned contributions to Carnatic Music.
Vibha and Bhavya Guru are currently in 11th and 8th grade respectively. They have both been learning Carnatic music from a young age and have participated in numerous Sruti Events throughout the years.
Thyagaraja was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music. We know him most for his soul-stirring compositions, praising Sri Rama. Through his beautiful compositions, Thyagaraja also made many important contributions to the spirituality, devotion and philosophy of Indian society. As a student of Carnatic music, I have spent many hours practicing and perfecting the intricacies and nuances of Thyagaraja’s kritis. As I delve deeper in my pursuit of Carnatic music, I have found myself growing interested in Thyagaraja’s philosophical commentary. Thyagaraja’s compositions covered various themes including Vedanta philosophy.
Dwaita claims that there are two entities, jeevatma and paramatma. Advaita claims that there is only the paramatma, and the jeevatma is only a manifestation of the paramatma. While he has not explicitly chosen one school of philosophy as the correct one, Thyagaraja has examined and contemplated philosophy through his beautiful kritis. Gnanamosaga radha in Poorvikalyani and Paramatmudu in Vagadeeshwari are examples of compositions in which Thyagaraja alludes to the self and supreme being one and the same. In Gnanamosaga radha he asks the Lord: can’t you initiate me into the ultimate advaitic doctrine so that I may realize the unity of the Supreme paramatma and the individual jeevatma? Here, it seems as though Thyagaraja has accepted the path of Advaita as the truth. However, analysis of other compositions shows that both paths may not lead to salvation. In E Dari Sancharintura in Shruti Ranjani, Thyagaraja shows us the conflicts posed by Dwaita and Advaita. He observes in E Dari Sancharintura: If I follow the Advaita path, you say it is difficult to save me. If I pray that you save me, you say that I am dualistic. Here, Thyagaraja beautifully describes the contradictions posed by having a savior and being one with the savior. This brings up the question of how one can be saved by the supreme when they themself claim to be a part of the supreme. On the other hand, Thyagaraja says that he cannot be saved by the almighty in the Dwaita system either. This concept is one I could not fully grasp, as it would seem that God, the all-powerful, would be able to save anyone. Thyagaraja’s dilemma concerning which path to tread is also expressed in Dwaitamu sukhama in Reetigowla. He wonders: Are we one or are we two? Which path will lead to bliss? Thyagaraja makes it clear that the answer is not straightforward, and merits deep thought.
While I am by no means an expert in the matter, exploring Thyagaraja’s wealth of kritis has inspired me to wonder about the fundamental questions that so many before me have wondered about: What is the nature of the world? Who am I? Many people in the pursuit of salvation have been inspired by Thyagaraja’s commentary on the right path. Thyagaraja’s use of Nadopasana (bhakti through music) has awakened the spiritual forces in many, leading them to their preferred path to salvation. This ability of Thyagaraja’s work, to inspire inquisitive thought in an appealing manner, is one of the many reasons his compositions are timeless and universal.
Dhiya is a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh and has been learning Carnatic music from Smt. Praba Subramaniam for the last few years. She enjoys learning about and listening to Carnatic music. She is also involved with Pitt’s Sangeet club.
These are excerpts from a recent phone interview with Sri R. Sivasubramanian (alias Sivamani Mama), who used to live in Thiruvaiyaru during the early days of Thiagaraja Aradhana (between 1943-1950) (Thiagaraja Aradhana is referred to as utsavam in the passages below) :
NamaskAram Sri Siva Mama. Were you born in Thiruvaiyaru?
Yes. I was born in Thiruvaiyaru – 15 Mandapam Street. My nativity is MullaivAsal. The four (brothers) of us were sent to our grandmother’s residence in Thiruvaiyaru to go to school because there were no suitable schools in MullaivAsal at that time. The schools were completely in Thamizh Medium, with English and Samskritam as separate subjects.
Could you please give us an idea of the geographic landscape?
Each residence in our street had a front yard facing the river Cauvery, flowing west to east in its abundance. Needless to say, our house plots were plush with mango, banana, coconut and other thriving vegetables and flowering plants. There would invariably be a mandapam-like (arch) formation at the entrance of the houses. The other set of streets ran perpendicular to the river.
Current Map of the vicinity of the Thiagarajar Samadhi Temple:
What was your daily routine in Thiruvaiyaru?
As children, we would get up in the morning, stand in a queue (line) towards the back of our kitchen, to have our quota of coffee made by our grandmother, then go to the river for a bath. There were exclusive areas for river-bath dedicated to men and women. Our watersports were part of our bath ritual. After completing out bath we would wash our clothes on the banks of the river. Subsequently, we would still be immersed in the fun and frolic with water, till our grandmother would start looking out for us. This entire early morning segment used to be a natural hydrotherapy for us. We would then return home to get dressed. My entire wardrobe was a pair-of-shirts and a pair-of-shorts on a cloth-line in a nook. Those impressions of simple living are evergreen in my mind.
Being a fertile place, fresh vegetables would be available at arm’s length from the kitchen. They would be taken from the plants to stove swiftly for my grandmother to provide us a fresh full meal by 9am every day.
After school, in the evening, we would play tennikoit and come home around 7pm. We would have dinner, study and do our homework around a hurricane lamp / lantern before retiring to bed (mat - made of natural fiber called Paai - unfolded on the floor). It goes without saying that there was no electricity, no fan.
What was your regular mode of transportation?
Within about six months of moving to Thiruvaiyaru from MullaivAsal, I knew the map of the locale in our heads. I was comfortable walking to places within the village. Those who could afford, used to travel by horse-drawn carts while the common man used the single-bullock-cart. The visiting utsava-artistes were comfortably hosted and transported by the local families. Kumbakonam Sri Rajamanickam Pillai (renowned violin vidwan) used to organize the logistics for the above. He was the leading member of the organizing committee.
Please tell us more about the Utsavam itself.
The Thiagaraja Utsavam would fall in the month of January – Bahula Panchami. I had the privilege of experiencing the live performances of the vintage stalwarts such as Alathur Brothers, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Chembai Vaidhyanatha Bhagavathar, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, GNB, Madurai Mani, Palghat Mani Iyer and Chowdiah to name a few.
Kutcheries (concerts) would go on from early morning till 11am. Then there was lunch. We would then come home and go back at 4pm. The events thereafter would last till about 10pm. Saint Thiagarajar’s sannadhi (sanctorum) would have its divine impact on anyone in that atmosphere. The events would happen under a beautifully constructed pandal in front of the sannadhi. Not far from the sannadhi was a palace that housed the college for Thamizh and Samskritam. It used to offer a degree in the respective languages called SiromaNi.
I have been a volunteer (to admit / guide the people and take steps to maintain silence during the concerts) for eight years of the Utsavam. The organizers issued a scarf and badge to be able to identify us volunteers.
The artistes would usually stay in their relatives’ places around Thiruvaiyaru such as Kumbakonam and Thanjavur. The rasikas would usually be accommodated in the Thinnais of the big-hearted locals.
The utsavam starts with the inauguration by a VIP followed by kutcheries (performances). It lasts for a total of 5 days with the central event of Aradhanai and Pancharatnam rendition. Hanumar Utsavam would be held at the end to complete the utsavam. Rasikas would go to visit Saint Thiagarajar’s residence and perform Bhajans / NAma Sankeerthanam there. My Samskritam teacher used to live very close to the saint’s residence.
I remember once Sri Rajaji was invited as a VIP guest to the utsavam. That was the time when Bangalore Nagarathnamma was insistent that MS Amma should participate in the utsavam. That was the year from which MS Amma started to regularly feature in the utsavam. I have seen Bangalore Nagarathnamma, an icon of activism, devotion and dedication, in her ripe old age at the utsavam. We can now see her samadhi right behind the stage at Saint Thiagaraja Temple sannadhi. Kapistalam Moopanar would take care of rice, vegetables, coconuts etc. that are needed for the major food serving sessions during the Aradhanai. There was a main stage for the performance. There was also a mini stage for the upcoming artistes. Our schools were closed during the utsavam – the interval would usually combine with a weekend.
AIR (All India Radio) used to relay the evening programs from there. With an inflow of visitors, the local hotels’ business would be up.
How was the weather?
Not too hot nor cold by that latitude’s standards. But whenever it rained, there used to be a lot of mosquitoes. We used to burn small heaps of commonly available hay to create adequate smoke to keep them away. Sanitation used to be an issue, but measures were taken to keep things under check. Electric streetlights with reasonable spacing was a common feature.
What were the other festivities in Thiruvaiyaru?
The SapthaSthAnam festival took place around mid-April mid-May of every year. The seven temples that participated were:
This festival culminated in a Muthu-Pallakku *oorvalam. It is Pearl Palanquin *procession of Lord Shiva with grand accompaniment of many Nadaswaram and Tavil vidwans.
Any other fond recollections of those golden days in Thiruvaiyaru?
We had the privilege of growing up being part of concerts with accompanists such as Palani Subramania Pillai and Alangudi Ramachandran. I should mention Sri Annasami Bhagavathar, an exponent of Harikatha, whose musical presence one would not miss in Thiruvaiyaru. He was ably accompanied by all his brothers.
I have witnessed Lalgudi Sri Jayaraman perform as a youngster. My wife’s family, hailing from Lalgudi, were neighbors / friends of the Lalgudi Family. She used to recollect the young Lalgudi Sri Jayaraman (wearing a sikha – lock of head hair) going to mail letters in the mailbox. With that past connection, Sri Jayaraman has visited us in Mumbai later.
Sri R. Sivasubramanian is an octogenarian who was eager to share his experience in and around Thiruvaiyaru in his early school days. This phone interview was done by Suresh Tyagarajan, an enthusiastic Sruti member.
Venkatasubramanian, retired from Bank of Baroda two decades ago. Hails from an orthodox family, faithfully following our daily
religious rituals. Undergone part-time 'Veda
Adhyayanam' for eight years. Took interest in study of
Samskritam language and the import and implication of the various precepts
mandated in our scriptures. Learned Veenai for a few years under
vidhushi Smt. Padmavathi Ananthagopalan and possesses knowledge of carnatic
music. An avid reader of ancient English literature. Presently leading a peaceful, happy life jointly with his children.
Haripriya, presently homemaker in a joint family with her in-laws. An M.A. [English literature] and M.L.I.S. University rank holder. Had various academic distinctions during her school/college days. Served as the Head of the Department of Library in M.O.P. Vaishnav College and earned accolades and approbation from her college authorities in abundance. Affable and affectionate, everywhere noted for her cordiality and camaraderie.
Arudra Ravikanth is a 12 year old 6th Grader from Lionville Elementary. Audra is currently undergoing training in Mridangam from Vidwan Shri T S Nanda Kumar in New Jercy. His interests include playing tennis, speed cubing, lego building to name a few.
Quiz #3 - Identify
the Carnatic Raagas
Dr N Krishnaraj, an avid music lover, a passionate linguist and a distinguished engineer. He is the father of Balachandar Krishnaraj and resides in the peaceful village of Padappai near Chennai.
(February 27, 2021 4:30PM)
A carnatic kutcheri is successful when it transports the listeners beyond the music and into a trance. Flutist Srutisagar and his team just did that. It was an amazing amalgam of young talents performing as a team with stupendous chemistry. Put that alongside a very well mastered video and audio, you have a winning online concert. The Sruti board has done a marvelous job in presenting the concert of this remarkable namesake artist.
Srutisagar is a talented young artist whose effortless flute playing with a nod to the vocal bhani reminds us of the eternal Mali. His focus on manodharmam and presentation of swarams to intricate thalam patterns espouses the deep talent in his art form. Vittal Rangan on the violin was an equally worthy sidekick whose cheery stage presence was another factor in the success of the concert. The percussive duo of Praveen Sparsh on Mridangam and Sunil Kumar on Kanjira were marvellous in their support and on par with the rest of the team. Praveen’s sound of the mridangam with a rich bass added another nuance to the concert.
The kutcheri followed a traditional concert design with an eye towards a variety of technical elements in terms of selection of the raagams, thalams, nadais and krithi selections. The concert was not just an aural treat but was also a visual one with the team set against a well manicured backdrop. The setup was clean, appealing and the placement of the Kanjira accompaniment on the right side of the stage, signalling equal footing with the rest of the artists, is highly commendable.
The concert started with a short flash of Saveri ragam as the team warmed up to play Sarasuda ninne varnam. Not only was the rendition very close to the vocal version, Sruthi eschewed playing in the higher kaalams. This is not only uncommon with flutists but also kept with the true spirit of warming up for a great concert
This was followed by the beautiful Guruleka, a Saint Thyagaraja’s classic. Gowrimanohari ragam is an appealing one, particularly suited for the flute. Sruthi used this aspect to develop a graceful alapanai showing flashes of his ability to handle smoothness with speed. His virtuosity in presenting the piece close to the vocal version was evident when one listens to the charanam “tanuvu suta dhanadhaara” where each of the syllables were articulated. The kalpana swarams were handled very deftly by the entire team displaying close chemistry.
A brisk Bilahari alapanai along with the song Maa Mayura followed. This tamil composition by Chidambara Bharathi on Lord Muruga is known for the laya patterns formed with the sahityam and it gives the artists scope for varying the nadai & spacing patterns. Srutisagar and his team exploited this advantage to present this krithi very creatively along with the delightful chittai swaram with bountiful jumps across octaves. Another nuance to note is how Srutisagar is able to differentiate the swaram playing from the sahityam by employing “thuthukaram”, a staccato style of blowing.
With the concert in full swing at this point, Srutisagar embarked on presenting an elaborate bhairavi. The alapani was traditional, started slow and was developed to a well balanced crescendo. This was followed by Vittal Rangan on the violin which was worth its own standing. The krithi that was presented as the sub-main piece was the Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s Chintaya Makanda in roopakam thalam. This relatively rare krithi is a part of the panchabhootha krithi representing the prithvi lingam(earth).
After the involved ghanaragam presentation, Srutisagar deftly pivoted to a mellifluous and easy kapi which flowed as tasty as its homonym cousin (filter kapi). Sarasamu ladedanduku, a smooth javali composed by Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar was soothing on the flute. Again the chemistry between the crew was exemplified as they were in total sync in the charanam of the song. Srutisagar also showed his versatility by incorporating lighter shades of kapi in this piece.
Next came the main course of this captivating concert. A ragam-tanam-pallavi in poorvi kalyani, which is again a ragam well suited for the carnatic flute. Srutisagar’s ragam exposition was classic. A soothing slow start leading to well nuanced flourishes as he reached the higher octaves. He then passed the baton to Vittal Rangan who was able to take it to the end with purpose and in style. Srutisagar then went on to the tanam where the violinist and him engaged in tantalizing thanam phrases starting with the vilambita kaalam, quickly transitioning to the madhyama kaalam followed by very fast expressions of the thanam. The pallavi was set in Chathushra jathi thriputa thalam with a kanda nadai. As Srutisagar sang the pallavi lines, the team joined along to kick off a very elaborate pallavi presentation. The depth of the pallavi with multiple kaalams, multiple nadai and eduppu followed by the kalpana swarams and kuraippu clearly showed his virtuosity. This was followed by a well designed and executed thani avartanam by Praveen Sparsh on Mridangam and Sunil Kumar on Kanjira. While it has become somewhat fashionable to present the ragam-tanam-pallavi with many interwoven ragams, Srutisagar kept it traditional by staying with Poorvi Kalyani. All in all, the main presentation was clean, sumptuous and in the same class as that of any other senior vidwan.
As the concert entered its final innings. Srutisagar delivered a soul stirring flash of the Sindhu Bhairavi ragam followed by Gangadeeshwaram Shankaram in adi thalam. The smooth delivery was followed by the thiruppavai - Madhiyaal Viththaganaagi - in Surutti ragam and the traditional mangalam - pavamana - rounding out the kutcheri.
What a delightful evening it was for all the ardent kutcheri fans who were dearly missing the regular Sruti concerts of the pre-covid era. Srutisagar and the team delivered a complete package right to our devices and in our homes, It was worth every minute. Hoping to see decades of growth for these young artists and even more presentations in the future.
Dr N Krishnaraj, an avid music lover, a passionate linguist and a distinguished engineer. He is the father of Balachandar Krishnaraj and resides in the peaceful village of Padappai near Chennai.
1.Kakarla Tyagabrahmam. The suffix; Brahmam' is common for his family lineage. His father was Ramabrahmam, and mother was Seethamma.
2.Kaakarla village is in Kambham taluk in Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh.
4.'Namo Namo Raghavaya' in the raga 'Desiya Thodi'. It is now being sung in Sindhu Bhairavi.
5.Sonti Venkatramayya, the chief musician of The King of Thanjavur.
6.First, his father, Ramabrahmam gave him the upadesam and later Ramakrishnanda Swami of Kanchipuram taught him the Rama Sadakshari manthra.
7.Saint Narada gave the book. Its name is 'Swararnavam'.
8.By that time, he had chanted the Rama Manthra 96 crores times, Rama appeared before him in the form in which he and Lakshmana were accompanying sage Viswamithra, and he immediately disappeared. Thyagaraja then composed the Krithi “Yela nee Dhaya Radhu”.
9.'E paniko lenmamichidinani?' in the raga 'Asaveri'.
The pallavi states, 'You should not think that I was born for some sundry purpose. Is it not known to your mind?'
In the charanam, he mentions the name Valmiki and asks, 'If Valmiki and other sages have extolled your glory, will that satisfy my desire. shall I also not to do the same to you?'
10.The song, “Kanu Kontini “in Bilahari.
11.Ghana raga Pancharatnam:
The Pancharatna Kritis are:
- Jagadananda Karaka (Ragam Natai)
- Duduku gala (Ragam Goula)
- Sadhinchane (Ragam Arabhi)
- Kanakana Ruchira (Ragam Varali)
- Endaro Mahanubhavulu (Shree Ragam)
12.It is in the confluence of five rivers. The Five Rivers are Vadavaar, Vennaar, Vettaar,Kudamurutti and Kaveri.
13.Panchanadeeswarar. His consort is called, 'Dharmasamvadhani'.
14.Bangalore Nagaratnamma and she had built the Samadhi for him.
15.The year 1949.
16.Tyagaraja composed two musical plays in Telugu, the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and the Nauka Charitam.
17.Yes, a daughter by name Seethalakshmi. She was married to one Kuppuswami Iyer.
18.His last composition is Paritapamu in raga Manohari. In this composition he says that 10 daysfrom now, Rama will come and take me with him in a golden chariot. Tyagaraja took to sanyasam just before his death.
19.On Pushya Bagula Panchami day, 6 January 1847.
20.Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri.
3.4.042 sq miles
6.Sonti Venkata Ramanayya
7.Panchanada and Panchapakesha
10.Born: May 4 ,1767 Died: January 6th 1847
12.Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri
13.At age 13.the song was called name name Ragavayya
8. Brindhavana Saranga
9. Yadukula Kambhoji